“Share a Coca-Cola with each other…”
When Diana Ross’s 1976 self-titled LP was re-released as a double-disc expanded edition in 2012, fans were once again gifted with some exciting musical treats. As had become the norm, boutique label Hip-O Select did a phenomenal job re-mastering the album and extending it with alternate mixes and unreleased tracks. Three songs – lifted straight out of the Motown vaults – were brand-new to Diana fans, including Elton John’s “Harmony” and some nice funk from the Sly Stone camp. But another track, which closed out the first disc, was also an unearthed treasure for fans, and revealed a little-known side of Diana Ross: the pitch-woman.
“Coming Home” is listed in the liner notes as a Japanese promo-only single; it was recorded back in 1975, after sessions for Last Time I Saw Him and before the release of Diana Ross. It had also apparently first surfaced on CD back in 2005, in a Japanese release that reveals its origins: Coca-Cola Commercial Songs 1962-1989. The song – running a brief minute and a half – is a Coca-Cola jingle.
Amazingly, given the level of success she’s achieved, Miss Diana Ross has rarely lent her name or voice to products. In light of today’s celebrity-driven culture – one in which just about every music artists helps sell a fragrance, clothing brand, and soft drink – Diana’s few endorsements seem like minor footnotes to her career. She is just not a singer identified with brands, although the Supremes lent their faces to campaigns for bread, deodorant, and Coke, and Diana for MAC Cosmetics later in her career (with a few others along the way). But overall it’s safe to say these ad campaigns didn’t do for Miss Ross what Pepsi did for Michael Jackson and Britney Spears or what Mariah Carey’s perfume line has done for her (in terms of publicity…and certainly in terms of how much the artists got paid).
Still, hearing Diana Ross sing “Coming Home” is a good reminder of just how important she really is to pop culture. And the song itself is an interesting artifact of the mid-1970s, coming just a few years after Coke’s groundbreaking commercial using the song “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony).” That song became extremely popular and portrayed Coca-Cola as a brand that brings people together, especially young people. “Coming Home” follows that lead, continuing the folksy sound of “I’d Like…” while expanding the story to one about a woman traveling to meet her brother for the first time. The song has an urgent, galloping beat, and Diana sings the lyrics with the warm, round tone that distinguishes her work from the period. After wrapping work on Lady Sings The Blues, Miss Ross’s voice noticeably changed, with the singer appropriating a more laid-back vocal style; this continues until her energetic disco work brought back some fire to her performances late in the decade. There’s not much fire to be found here; Diana is relaxed and cool as she alternates octaves on the refrain, “Coming Home to meet my brother, share a Coca-Cola with each other…” — which is exactly as it should be. She repeats the cute “oooo-weeeee now” a few times, which is a nice little retro-Motown touch, the kind of thing you’d have heard in a pre-stardom Supremes cut. There are also spoken lines, something Diana Ross always excels at, and she certainly sounds every bit the star on lines like, “You know, there’s a world of blue skies…and there’s a brand-new day…”
Of course, it’s impossible to take this brief recording out-of-context; it is a commercial, and really can’t be appreciated as anything else. It does, however, again remind fans of what a force Diana was in the 70s; between recording albums, filming movies, and staging live spectaculars, she also somehow found time to lend her voice to the powerhouse brand that was Coca-Cola. There are very few — if any — products that have the universal, international appeal of the soda brand, and there are very few performers who have the universal, international appeal of Diana Ross. Thus, it makes perfect sense that the two would forge a relationship, however limited it ultimately was.